Tucker Retreats

by Rich Lowry

In his bizarre attacks on National Review, Tucker Carlson’s m.o. has been to keep changing his story while pretending he’s doing no such thing. He’s still at it. His latest post includes a lot of bluster, so it’s easy to miss that he is beating a retreat. His publication originally claimed that the House Republican leadership “pre-arranged” a positive editorial about the “Pledge to America” with NR. His new breathless claim is that “GOP leadership aides were aware of, and excited by, National Review’s editorial before it was published.” If his first story were true, of course the aides would have known what they had supposedly pre-arranged.

We have little hope of influencing The Daily Caller’s “reporting” with the facts, but for the benefit of those whose opinion matters to us, here they are:

A House Republican leader briefed us last Monday about some of the contents of the pledge and asked our reaction; we said it sounded good but we would of course reserve judgment until we saw the final document.

We got an advance copy of the pledge mid-afternoon Wednesday, but under an “embargo”: We couldn’t write about it until after the House leadership had briefed Republican congressmen. This sort of thing—getting an embargoed advance copy of a document—is extremely standard in journalism: Nearly every presidential speech, for example, is sent out to reporters under such rules. We planned on posting around 10PM that evening.

Our editorial staff then read and analyzed the pledge with no involvement from any House member, aide, or Republican official.

By late afternoon a copy of the pledge had been leaked and its contents were being widely described in other media outlets. We therefore asked our sources if we could disregard the embargo, and were told we could.

A draft of the editorial was completed around 5 p.m. While the editorial was being prepared for posting—that is, formatted and copy-edited—we gave House aides a heads-up to watch NRO for a largely positive reaction. At 6:30 p.m., the editorial was online. That was the first time anyone on the Hill saw it.

Given our well-earned reputation for accuracy and independence, House Republican leaders clearly believed that our endorsement of the pledge would carry weight with conservative congressmen. When these leaders briefed the congressmen about the pledge around 7 pm, they distributed copies of the editorial—something we learned from one of our reporters covering the meeting. We confess to being delighted. We want congressmen, and everyone else, to read us.

But conservatives who lost internal battles over what would go into the pledge are naturally less pleased, and perhaps the timeline led them to leap to mistaken conclusions and then attempt to discredit us. Carlson, for whatever reason, cannot admit that the story he published was false. (Trying to correct the record, by the way, does not constitute “personally” attacking a reporter, whose sloppy work should be the real target of Carlson’s indignation.)

The pledge has its critics—some of whom have had their say on National Review Online—but our view that the pledge is a positive step has largely been seconded, and sometimes explicitly seconded, by the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, the Manchester Union Leader, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, and most other conservative commentators. Their reactions, too, have been promptly promoted by House Republican press aides. Perhaps they, too, have joined the conspiracy.

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